Peter Shumlin, Governor of Vermont, said Thursday that he supports and will sign onto a request that federal law be changed to allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana and pharmacists to fill the prescriptions. “I think it’s ludicrous that marijuana is put in the same category by the federal government as heroin and other drugs that are extraordinarily addictive,” the Democratic governor told reporters at a news conference Thursday.
His comments came one day after Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire filed a report and petition with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to change marijuana from a “Schedule 1″ drug, banned under federal law, to a “Schedule 2″ drug available by prescription. Several states, including Vermont, have passed laws that allow patients with chronic illness or intractable pain to have access to marijuana. In Vermont, patients must get a recommendation from their doctor saying marijuana use is part of their treatment and register with the Department of Public Safety. They can grow the drug themselves or have a specially designated caregiver grow it for them. Those state medical marijuana laws conflict with federal law, though. And federal authorities have been cracking down in some states, launching raids of marijuana dispensaries last month in California, Washington and Montana.
Shumlin would go further, though, than making marijuana a prescription drug, he said Thursday. He reiterated past statements that he supports decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana as a few other states, including Massachusetts, have done. Someone caught with less than an ounce of marijuana in Massachusetts faces no state criminal penalty but a possible civil fine of $100. Shumlin said Vermont “should use our precious law enforcement dollars to go after the criminals that are really disrupting our communities.”